By Ashley Phillips
Updated August 23, 2007
| Credit: Wendell T. Webber

What type of leather is it?

There are two types of leather: naked and finished.

  • Naked leather is also called pure aniline leather, as the dye used is considered pure. It has no protective coating on its surface, so the leather is extremely absorbent. It is very difficult to clean any ink off of this leather with home treatments because the ink soaks deep into the leather.
  • Finished leather is also called semi-aniline leather. The leather is essentially painted with a dye, creating a topcoat, or barrier, for the leather against stains.

You can try a simple test to tell whether you're working with naked or finished leather. On a part of the leather that is not visible, let a drop of water fall to the surface. If the water soaks in, the leather is pure aniline. If the water beads off the surface, the leather is semi-aniline.

How deep is the stain?

  • If the ink was simply swiped onto the surface, by a hand gesture for example, then the stain will not have soaked in deeply. Keep in mind, too, that water-based inks are easier to take up than are other inks, and the "wetter" the ink (that is, the longer it takes to dry), the easier it will come up.
  • If the ink has bled onto a surface, creating a round ink spot, it will have soaked deeply into the leather. This stain is difficult to recover from, and your only recourse may be to redye the leather.

How to remove the stain

  • If you decide to clean the leather yourself: choose a soap-based cleaner, not a solvent-based one. Soap-based cleaners (such as Ivory) are much more gentle and will not damage the leather. (A mild soap, however, will leave a residue that will attract dirt.) Solvent-based cleaners are more harsh, and they will probably remove the color or the finish of the leather. Even cleaners marketed specifically for leather are found to remove color. With a soap-based cleaner and gentle treatment, you may be able to pull up some of the stain.
  • If you'd rather leave the job to a pro: start by calling the company that produced your item or the store where you bought it. See if it can recommend a cleaner. Ask dry cleaners for recommendations for a leather professional in your area, or check the Leading Cleaners Internationale website ( This site lists highly qualified dry cleaners around the world that guarantee their work, so you’ll know your leather is in good hands.